Acres of Perhaps #10 - February 27, 2021

Same Newsletter, Different Vendor

Hello, friends! I’m guessing this doesn’t matter much to you, but I’m switching newsletter vendors from MailChimp to Substack. There should be little difference on your end, and I believe both are equally safe guardians of your email addresses. If they aren’t, I’ll switch away myself!

Five Interesting Things

Here are a few interesting things I found (or posted) over the last month:

  • In COVID times, it’s not always easy to exercise your imagination like you could around the gaming table with friends, but I’m enjoying solo journal-writing role-playing games these days. There are some with dice and combat, but many more are essentially connected writing exercises with a narrative component; you’re prompted to make a choice or action and then write about it. Thousand Year Old Vampire is a beautiful artifact just in itself, and it leads you through your own adventure centuries in the making with fascinating ephemera. Wait for Me by Jeeyon Shim is a simple but contemplative journey through your own life via time travel which is also worth trying. There are many more, and if nothing else, they make for great writing prompts.

  • The most useful link you will ever get is this one for Just Watch, a website where you can search for any movie and it will tell you what streaming services have it for sale, rent, or simply in their library.

  • Rush Limbaugh died! Did you know I chatted with him once? I haven’t been invited to the funeral.

  • One thing to do in our time of uncertainty is to read this compiled timeline of predictions for our future. Is it calming? Your mileage may vary.

What is Success?

A recent virtual panel at Boskone and a conversation with my boss got me thinking about what constitutes success for me. It’s goal and review time in corporate America, and that’s when you get asked about your career plans.

When I was a teenager, I told the girls I dated that I would be President of the United States, but these days, even managing two people in my day job feels exhausting sometimes. I’d be a very, “Yeah, whatever, go do it” president for the things I didn’t care about, and we’ve already had a few too many of those.

For most of my life since then, I’ve considered success as the opportunity to live a life of creative abandon, and that’s essentially where I am today still…though I no longer think that a day job is antithetical to that life. I’m lucky to work in (perhaps the first) place where people respect and enjoy my creativity without being horrified by me, and that comfort is important for the persistence required in a writing career.

But is comfort the same as success?

To me, success as a writer is:

  • Enjoying the shiver of recognition that comes at discovering the correct end of a good story.

  • Reaching readers who enjoy the work and would like to see more of it.

  • Being able to share tips and advice with students about a creative life.

  • Having the time and security to not have to hurry to keep myself alive.

That second one is probably the sticking point right now. I love the fact that the people I meet one by one seem to enjoy my work and my insights, and it’s actually fun to surprise them with the whole, “Man, what are you doing here?” thing when I do a reading or they find me on Amazon. But I’ll admit I’d like to keep growing that audience (so you folks reading this aren’t so lonely).

I’ve watched hundreds of fellow writers storming the beaches of publishing only to watch them come staggering back holding their own severed leg in their hands like the guy in Saving Private Ryan. It’s a meat grinder, and if your self-worth is tied to what happens in publishing, you might as well bet on racehorses instead.

The only wisdom I have about the process is that it’s like fishing: you can change the bait a little and strategize the place and time you use it, but in the end, it comes down to casting over and over until a fish bites. Then you have to be ready to reel it in.

In case the universe is listening, I’d like to think I’m ready to handle the pressures of staggering success, but if the Great Guiding Intelligence disagrees, I’ll keep casting as long as I can.

Odd Photograph

I found this picture recently of my mother defeating her sixteenth grandmaster just like Anya Taylor Joy’s character in The Queen’s Gambit.

Benediction

Thank you for your continued interest in my work! I’m deeply grateful for it.